Three leading international human rights groups have condemned "a new wave of inspections" of Russian non-governmental organizations by the country's law enforcement and tax authorities.
London-based Amnesty International, New York-based Human Rights Watch and Dublin-based Front Line Defenders said in a joint statement Friday that officials from various Russian government agencies have inspected at least 30 NGOs in the past two weeks in Moscow, and many more in at least 13 other Russian regions.
The three groups described the inspections as "part of an intensifying crackdown on the country’s embattled human rights community since the adoption of a series of restrictive laws last year."
A law signed by President Vladimir Putin last July requires NGOs that receive overseas financial support and engage in "political activity" to register with the Justice Ministry as "foreign agents."
On Thursday, officials from the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, Justice Ministry and Tax Inspectorate searched the Moscow office of Memorial, one of Russia's oldest human rights groups.
Officials returned to Memorial's office on Friday and continued to examine and make copies of financial documents.
According to the three international human rights groups, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office has stated publicly that it plans to inspect between 30 and 100 NGOs in each of Russia’s regions, which could amount to thousands of groups nationwide.
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said via Twitter on Thursday that it was "following reports of the unprecedented inspections of NGOs taking place across Russia with great concern" and that it had shared its concerns with the Russian government and "asked for clarity as to the reasons behind the actions."